The Ukrainian Armed Forces stand in the town of Lyman. A tactically important step - and a psychological slap in the face for the enemy. A day after Vladimir Putin celebrated the "incorporation" of four Ukrainian territories into the Russian Federation - including the Donetsk region where Lyman is located - Ukrainian soldiers are taking control of the strategically important city.
A painful defeat. The Russian Ministry of Defense tries to cover it up behind euphemistic vocabulary. The troops had been withdrawn from the city "on more advantageous lines" because of the threat of encirclement, it said on Saturday afternoon.
As Sergei Shoigu's ministry resorts to its usual renaming tactic, the hardline war party in Moscow is turning on the defense minister, who has long been a thorn in the side of the hardliners.
The man who is notorious as Putin's bloodhound was one of the first to strike. The ruler of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, blamed the Colonel General responsible for the front section, Alexander Lapin, for the loss of Lyman.
"Defending this sector was the responsibility of the commander of the Central Military District, Colonel-General Alexander Lapin. The same Lapin who received the Order of the Hero of Russia for capturing Lisichansk, although in fact he was not even close," Kadyrov wrote on his telegram -Channel.
The long-term Chechen president accused the colonel-general of not providing the units on the Lyman front with the necessary communications and ammunition. "Two weeks ago, the major general of the Akhmad special forces, my dear brother Apty Alaudinov, reported to me that our fighters could become an easy target. In return, I informed Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, about the danger. But the general assured me he had no doubts about Lapin's leadership."
Further down the text, Kadyrov spoke even more clearly against the leadership of the Defense Ministry. "The nepotism in the army will not lead to good. It is necessary to appoint in the army strong-minded, courageous, principled people who care for their fighters, who cut their teeth for their soldiers, who know that a subordinate cannot be left alone without help and support. There is no place for nepotism in the army, especially in difficult times."
Lapin became the focus of public interest last May. At that time it became known that he awarded his own son, lieutenant colonel Denis Lapin, who had recently led the failed offensive against Sumy and Chernigov. In addition, Lapin is the only colonel-general that Defense Minister Shoigu retained in his post after the start of the invasion of Ukraine. What's more, although Lapin had to accept several defeats, the Western one was also put under his control in addition to the Central Military District.
Surprisingly, the head of the Wagner troupe, Sergei Prigoshin, jumped to Kadyrov's side. The Chechen leader's expressive statement does not quite match his style. But: "Bravo, Ramzan, keep rocking! All these loosers belong barefoot with guns at the front," he commented. Prigozhin is nicknamed "Putin's Chef" in Russia because he was for a time one of the purveyors to the Kremlin's kitchens.
Only recently did he admit what was by no means a secret: in May 2014 he founded the Wagner troupe to send fighters to the Ukrainian Donbass, Prigozhin said in a statement from his company. From this point on, "a group of patriots" was born, which "later received the name battalion tactical group Wagner".
While Kadyrov and Prigozhin avoid directly blaming Shoigu for defeat, influential blogger and former PR chief of Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin, Anastasiya Kashevarova, goes further. She demanded answers from Shoigu and Gerasimov: "Does the President know about the incidents? Who is reporting to him? Where is the equipment? Where are the (tank) Armata? Where is everything? How did it happen? Bagged? Sold? Where did it go ?Did they even exist?"
"The Russian forces involved in this invasion do not form a monolithic unified army," BBC military expert Ilya Barabanov told independent broadcaster Dozhd. They are a hodgepodge of a wide variety of troops: including men from Sergei Progozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenaries, troops from Kadyrov, units of the separatists from Luhansk and Donetsk, parts of the Russian army, the Russian National Guard and others. "All these people thought that they would win the war quickly and that they would soon report to Putin on their successes. But the war is not going according to their scenario. Defeat is looming. All these groups are now frantically starting to blame each other to push at the setbacks."
It has been observed for a long time how, for example, Wagner mercenaries criticize the Ministry of Defence. Kadyrov's troops, on the other hand, criticized Progozhin. "There's a constant struggle going on," says Barabanov. And as soon as bad news came from the front, the different factions would be at each other's throats.